Ari Ne’eman in his paper “Autism in the Context of Ableism” stated that: “Autism isn’t something a person has or a “shell” that a person is trapped inside. There’s no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colours every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter, every aspect of existence. It is not possible to separate the autism from the person–and if it were possible, the person you’d have left would not be the same person you started with” (Sinclair, 1999)
→ We use identity-first language (i.e., ’autistic person’) to reflect this perspective. Ableism is discrimination against, prejudice against or disregard for the needs of people with disabilities.
It can be:
• About attitudes;
• About structures or systems;
• Expressed implicitly or explicitly;
• Intentional or accidental;
• Something that impacts different kinds of disabled people differently
The Association of University Centers on Disabilty (AUCD) is a valuable source of information on this subject.
It is interesting to note that the signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is not signed by some surprising democracies such as the USA yet it does include countries such as South Africa and other African countries.
Where to from here?
Today, with racism, gender discrimination, xenophobia et al, most autistic adults (and indeed children and teens) will be able to identify with this and testify to having been a victim of ablesim.
A person or organisation guilty of ablism may not even be aware of it, in the same way, that not many years ago racism was almost the norm in many western and other societies.
While it is commonplace today to see offices and shopping malls with ramps for physically disabled, the invisibly disabled are disadvantaged in many ways.
How do we create more awareness regarding ablesim? Autistic people are particularly more prone to be the victims of this due to the fact that it is often an invisible syndrome.